Put travel at your fingertips. Planning your next getaway just got easier – and more fun – with these apps.
No matter what anyone—including any number of packing apps—may tell you, there are now only two things you absolutely have to remember to bring with you on any trip: your passport and your phone.
Just as I can’t quite fathom what it was like to live in the world before debit cards, I have only misty memories of travel before cellphones. I have a vague recollection of crossing from Italy into France in the pre-euro days and accidentally buying a $300 Daniel Hechter beach towel because I briefly forgot the franc was worth about 25 times more than the lira. XE Currency Converter could have saved me there.
I also remember the first time I went to Italy by myself. I arrived at Milan’s central station. I couldn’t speak Italian, no one I could find spoke English, I got frustrated and, Eurail Pass in hand, after going across the street and having the best spaghetti carbonara of my life—which I ordered because it was the only dish whose name I recognized—hopped the next train out of there. If I’d had Google Translate, my ultimately very satisfying relationship with Italy would probably have started several years earlier. As recently as 2006, six months before the first iPhone, I was in Prague at the end of a river cruise but only got to stay a night because the transportation out had been arranged by the company. I’ve not managed to get back there since, and Prague’s transit app could have let me make my own plans and afforded me some extra time in one of the world’s great cities.
But even today, your phone’s only as good as its apps and, given the enormous number of them and how many seem to do the same thing but really don’t, a little field guide of sorts is in order. Some, like Instagram, Google Maps (Citymapper’s getting good press and does certain things better than Google, but it only works for 30 cities) and the ones already mentioned above, fall into the category of common sense. But here are a few, some you may not have heard of and some you already have on your phone but have less than obvious travel uses that will make your trips easier and more fun.
Here, 9 apps that will help you along your way
I was a late adopter on this one for the perhaps ironic reason that it did too much. There were so many options, so many cool little things you could do—keep a travelogue, take pictures, share stuff with friends at home, link to webpages—that I never bothered delving. Then, last summer, somewhere between Sarajevo and Zagreb, I lost my physical Leuchtturm notebook, filled with three months of travel notes. In mourning, I turned to Evernote, with its instant Cloud upload feature, and I’ve never looked back.
I take notes, put in reminders, tap out phones numbers, link to sites and incorporate my pictures into it all. If you plump for the premium version—I got a not uncommon free-year offer, but it’s usually US$47—you can also scan business cards from people you meet and places you go and have the info plopped directly into your contacts. And it’s all searchable (including text in the photos, like signs) and, until the sky falls down, unloseable in the Cloud. (Works fine offline though the upload feature obviously needs a connection.)
2. Onavo Extend/Onavo Count
As phones get bigger and brighter, their data gets bigger and pricier as well. If you’re using a local SIM card (always recommended) or, heaven forfend, a roaming plan (which recently, thanks to the CRTC, got quite a bit better but really, what were you thinking?), that’s a lot of dosh to upload a selfie at Charlie Chaplin’s grave—unless you want to wait till you get Wi-Fi, but who wants to do that? Onavo Extend (for iOS) lets you run everything through its cloud. It explains how it all works on its site, but all you need to know is they claim they can extend your data plan by as much as five-fold. Onavo Count for Android keeps track of data and warns when you you’re about to bust.
There are many apps that purport to get you the best deals on flights, but this is the best I’ve found. It’s straightforward, localizable (handy because airfares can be different depending on what country you buy them in), and you can book straight from the app. It’s also broad enough to let you search nearby airports (e.g., Ft. Lauderdale and Miami) to get the best deal. I’ve used it for various forms of impromptu flights, and newer hipper-seeming apps, like Hitlist, actually use this as their engine.